Saturday, February 5, 2011

On the doors

To Co. Louth today to canvass for Labour candidate Ged Nash, with a few others from the old Irish Labour crowd. Much note-taking had gone on the night before, making sure that I knew the VAT rate and so on.

There were about ten of us in all and so we were able to cover a lot of ground. It was a stinking day for it and we all ended up soaking wet but it was worth it to get out there early in the campaign. We saw no canvassers from other parties, perhaps due to the weather.

There was the usual high level of people out or not answering. Of those who did open the door, most were only just starting to think about their voting choices and wanted to know a great deal more before making up their minds – but rather than say they were voting Labour to make you go away, they seemed genuinely to be unsure what they were going to do. Some were very vocal about their disillusion with all politicians (as also found by the Irish Times today) and some of these said that at this stage they were thinking of not voting at all. The fact that they have bothered to open the door means it’s possible to have a discussion about this. Labour’s candidate being local, well-known and trusted was important – which is not good news for Sinn Féin.

But for the first time in nearly thirty years of canvassing, I also saw quite a few ‘no politicians’ and ‘no election material’ signs, which have to be respected. In those cases, people had already given up. They didn’t want to engage with the democratic process at all, because they just can’t be bothered. Normally this infuriates me, but I can understand it on this occasion.

The question is what’s going to happen to all this confusion and disappointment. Will voters turn to the United Left Alliance and to Sinn Féin, in the misguided hope that things can carry on as they were after all and the EU/ IMF deal can be unilaterally reneged on rather than renegotiated? Will they stay at home, concentrate on minimising the damage for themselves and their families, and to hell with everyone else? Or can Labour win these votes on a pragmatic but fairer solution to the crisis that isn't going to go away?

Tomorrow’s poll in the Sunday Business Post apparently show Labour up 3% to 22%, with Fine Gael at 35% (down 2), Fianna Fáil 17% (down 1), Sinn Féin 13% (up 1), the Greens 2% (down 1) and others remaining at 11%. Promising for Labour, but it excludes the don’t knows.


Donal Lyons said...

The rise of the independents is interesting in that not only does it seems to show a huge disillusionment with the established parties but that it's also fractured pretty evenly between the ULA and Libertas/PD types.

Then again disillusionment with politics isn’t anything new - the fire that destroyed the House of Commons in 1834 being met with cheers from the good people of London springs to mind.

Still at least the non civil war parties are starting to get more of a look in although that may be down to a FF meltdown and a stunningly poor leader in FG.

I have a horrible suspicion however that just as FG were thought to be dead in 2002 (down to 31 seats) we may see FF bounce back in a few years (lets hope I'm wrong) but at least the ICP haven't shown their faces in any meaningful way.

Jenny Muir said...

Yes, Donal, interesting that I completely discounted the idea that the Irish electorate would go to the far right, and I'd completely forgotten about the ICP. I supose that's because the debate has been so much more about the Left alternative at the moment - interesting that the Right are keeping quiet.

I agree with you about FF and in fact think they might do better this time around than indications so far, due to voting for local candidates in whom individuals still have confidence. The other question about disillusion, apart from where will the votes go, is how long it will last.

I was very sorry to miss the leaders' debate as don't have TV3.

Donal Lyons said...

I haven't had a chance to watch the debate myself yet but it is online at

I've heard mixed things about it

Jenny Muir said...

Thanks Donal, I'll have a look at it this weekend